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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 14687


Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (14:16): Prime Minister, media photos of the $5,000 million Northern Australia development fund featured giant monopolists Wilmar and JBS Swift, and Darwin port monopolist Landbridge, describing them as potential beneficiaries. Since setting fund entry at a prohibitive $50 million precludes northern entities, and since water is the north's golden asset, are we northerners also going to see our water taken by downstream foreign corporates whilst cattlemen upstream continue to perish in drought? Prime Minister, is this a market fundamentalist's dream come true—

The SPEAKER: The member's time has expired.

Mr Katter interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will address the questions that were asked within the 30 seconds.

Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (14:16): I caught the last part of the honourable member's question, about cattle farmers upstream and foreign purchasers of water downstream. It reminds me of the great wisdom of Mark Twain, who said: 'Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over.' As a former minister for water resources, I have found, very often, that there are very difficult to reconcile arguments between users upstream and users downstream. There clearly is more concern from downstream users about diversions upstream, so I am surprised that somebody upstream on a river would be disadvantaged by somebody downstream. Normally, it is the other way around—anyway, maybe water flows uphill up there.

Ms Claydon interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Newcastle will cease interjecting!

Mr TURNBULL: I say to the honourable member that the government has a very deep commitment to the development of the north, as the honourable member knows. The honourable member is right that there are very substantial unexploited or underexploited water resources in the north. There are challenges, of course. Northern Australia—which, of course, is a gigantic piece of real estate—is generally flat. That is one of the challenges for Australia as a continent overall, because we do not have as many natural dam sites as we would like. In very flat country, it is expensive to store water, both from a construction point of view and because of the consequent evaporation.

But I can assure the honourable member that the government is very focused on ensuring that water resources in the north are sustainably exploited. The Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources has an absolute commitment to dams. I think it was Peter Walsh, wasn't it, who said: 'You know when an election is underway—you can feel a dam coming on.' Well, let me tell you: the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources has dams coming on in his mind in every part of the electoral cycle. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that water is exploited—sustainably, of course—to the economic benefit of all Australians and, in particular, where the honourable member comes from in Northern Australia, where there is plenty of opportunity for further exploitation of those vast water resources.